Daily Houserule tweets: April 2022

From February 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023, I posted an entry a day to the @gamesdiner Twitter account, using the hashtags #TRPG, #GURPS, and #DailyHouserule. The concept: Make tweets out of a bunch of minor GURPS houserule items, GM/player advice tidbits, and other tips & tricks, to have a bit of fun engaging with other gamers and get the #GURPS tag out there more. (See the initial announcement here.)

The year is up! I’m now posting those tweets to this site, a month per page. Links to all 12 months are below.

Do forgive the overly abbreviated and janky writing. These were tweets, so the text is full of shortcuts to fit the format. For better or worse, I’m leaving the content mostly untouched.

Entries by month:

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Entries No. 60 to 89


2022-04-01: Yesterday’s entry suggested varying Breath Control’s effect on breath-holding time (by using margin of success).

An alternate, simpler method:

Let Breath Control replace HT (if higher) as the base for breath-holding time.

You can even combine the two ideas: use the higher of HT or Breath Control as the base for breath-holding time, then further increase time (up to 10% x MoS) for a Breath Control roll.

Hm? Won’t that result in ridiculously long breath-holding times? Nope. Not even close.

World records are around 12 minutes, double that after long hyper-ventilation with pure oxygen. You need both of the two suggested ideas plus ridiculous skill (25+?) to get near that!

So embrace any house rules/circumstances (including hyperventilation, B351) that boost breath-holding time.


2022-04-02: Final idea for boosting Breath Control: After aiming a ranged weapon for 3 seconds, let a fourth second of Aim add an extra +1 TH if a Breath Control roll succeeds. (Failure means the extra second did nothing, but you can keep aiming and trying!)

This is a rough, action-oriented alternative to the detailed Precision Aiming rules found on GURPS Tactical Shooting p. 26. Use those rules instead if you want ultimate sniping realism!


2022-04-03: Max breath-holding time is based on level of exertion. What if you want to hyper-manage time while PCs mix up exertion level?

Easy to do. Start with No Exertion time; subtract 1 sec per turn of No Exertion, 2 per turn of Mild, 4 per turn of Heavy.

And with that, I think I’ve exhausted my supply of hot air on this topic.

Thank you for your patience during Breath Week, seven days of posts on a supremely trivial area of rules miscellanea.


2022-04-04: B421 lets cutting damage lop off arms and legs but not heads (other than as a killing blow special effect).

That’s fine for hits on PCs and bosses, for play balance reasons.

But fodder and mooks? Treat necks like limbs, and let the heads roll!

That said, severing should require more cutting damage for a neck than for a limb (50% more, for simplicity?).

Why? Play balance, sure, but also to offset the higher cutting damage multiplier for the neck (x2, vs x1.5 for limb). Severing a neck shouldn’t be easier than severing an arm!

Example: HP 10 = 6 dam to cripple or 12 dam to destroy a limb.

With a cut, that’s 4 basic hits (4 x 1.5 = 6) to cripple or 8 basic hits (8 x 1.5 = 12) to sever a limb – but only 6 basic hits (6 x 2 = 12) to sever a neck!

If we boost necks’ toughness by 50%, beheading now requires 18 damage. With a cut, that requires a more reasonable 9 basic hits (9 x 2 for the neck = 18) dam, just a tad above the 8 basic hits needed to sever a limb.


2022-04-05: By the book, the damage needed to lop off an arm or leg works out to a complicated “(HP/2, rounded down, +1) x 2”.

Feel free to simplify that to “Over HP” damage for a limb, or “Over 2/3 HP” damage for an extremity.

If you use yesterday’s idea to apply dismemberment rules to necks as well, but requiring 50% more damage than a limb:

Damage required for beheading becomes “(HP/2, rounded down, +1) x 3” – or, roughly simplified, “Over HP x 1.5” damage. Given the x2 modifier for cutting damage vs the neck, that’s not too hard to achieve…


2022-04-06: It’s the new heavy saber! Users of Saber skill now have an arsenal with two weapons in it!

Saber skill; sw cut, thr+1 imp; Reach 1; Parry 0F; $850; Wt 2.5; ST 9

Let’s allow use with Broadsword too: Same stats, but Parry 0.

This heavy saber still doesn’t match the cavalry saber in cutting prowess, but it’s agile enough for fencing.

It does cut as well as the edged rapier (though without that weapon’s long reach).

Full details are here: link


2022-04-07: DF Denizens: Swashbucklers offers the advantage “Van Gogh My Van Dyke”. That’s fine, but I prefer the name “Close Shave” – it’s fitting and easy to remember.

(Other than Honesty → Law-Abiding, though, I leave names alone. You? Got any favorite re-namings?)


2022-04-08: DF/DFRPG: No one’s asking exactly how long poisoning a blade takes. But pretend you did:

Let’s say a base 10 sec, x30 for max extra time = 5 min.

Skill? Imagine +5 skill for an easy task, +5 for extra time = +10 to Poisons… Call it no roll needed, which matches rules as written.

But: Are you in a hurry? Then do make a Poisons roll, using the appropriate time mod.

Sample net mods to the Poisons roll, using a +5 mod for an easy task, plus the mod for time:

  • 5 min: +10 (don’t bother rolling)
  • 40 sec: +7
  • 10 sec: +5
  • 5 sec: +0
  • 1 sec: -4

Make this rushed-dosing Poisons roll upon scoring a hit (just like extra doses).

  • If roll succeeds: Poison works. (Any extra doses now get their normal Poisons roll.)
  • If roll fails: Poison fails. (Any extra doses fail too!)

Best not to hurry.

On site: link


2022-04-09: Yesterday’s entry imagined the time needed to envenom a weapon with a basic single dose of poison.

Today: The separate time for extra doses!

Assume the same base 10 sec x30 for max extra time = 5 min per extra dose – but with a -5 task mod, not +5!

You’ll definitely need a Poisons roll (per the rules)!

Sample net mods to the Poisons roll, using a -5 hard task mod and the mod for time:

  • 5 min (presumably the norm for the task): +0 (i.e., a roll vs Poisons, per the rules)
  • 40 sec: -3
  • 10 sec: -5
  • 5 sec: -10
  • 1 sec: -14!

Note: Remember that readying vials of poison also takes time, should players cut envenoming time down to where that matters.

Last note:

Rushed envenoming would seem to carry a chance of self-poisoning mishaps, from increased risk of crit fail.

But per the rules, the Poisons roll happens later in combat, not while envenoming. So unless you make some change to the procedures, hurried poisoners get a free pass on potential mishaps.


2022-04-10: I think Thaumatology makes sense as a prerequisite for Alchemy (a.k.a. “magic chemistry”). (Compare: Naturalist as a prereq for Herb Lore.) Just my preference.

This won’t trip up many PC alchemists, as they’re usually wizards who already know Thaumatology.

(And while we’re at it, I think Thaumatology makes sense as a requirement for learning wizardly spells, at least under Dungeon Fantasy-like treatments of fantasy magic. Again, enforcing that won’t likely bother many PC wizards, who likely took the skill anyway.)


2022-04-11: Body Sense is a fine skill, but it’s still a one-trick action that’s far, far more limited in its use than Acrobatics. Consider changing it from Hard to Easy.

(Perhaps the Hard designation is meant to reflect the difficulty of gaining actual experience in such an esoteric ability. I get that, though I’d think a wizard who learns teleportation-related spells would easily gain experience with Body Sense while studying the spells. Either way, I say we make the skill Easy to reflect its very limited utility, and leave actual difficulty of skill acquisition a matter of character back story.)


2022-04-12: The Close to Hell talent (DF 20: Slayers) covers several demon-related skills, but not Physiology (Demons).

Add that skill, plus Thaumatology, Banish, and Pentagram, for a more comprehensive 10-point, 10-skill talent. (Call it “Closer to Hell”?)

Note that Banish and Pentagram here are the demon-slayer “skill” versions of the spells, not the normal magical spells.

More info here: link


2022-04-13: Why allow multiple (if increasingly difficult) Parry defenses per turn, but only one Block?

Try multiple Blocks per Martial Arts p. 123, with its cumulative -5 penalty. (Or get fancy: Use -(3+DB) as the penalty, making smaller shields more agile.)

Halve this penalty for Weapon Master (Shields).

Pyramid #3/118 and DFRPG Companion 3 offer the shield-bearer, a profession that makes heavy use of those multiple blocks (and would make for a really great defender/bodyguard). Get that and go create Captain Camelot or something.

See some more talk about shield-bearers in this forum thread: link


2022-04-14: DF/DFRPG bards are encouraged to carry instruments – but their magic doesn’t actually seem to require more than Singing.

As a simple way to get instruments into casting, let Musical Instrument or Singing act as a complementary skill for the other.

On the other hand, lots of complementary rolls can add up to a drag on play, so take care.

I’d welcome other ways to make the use of instruments more instrumental to bards. Or is “backup for when you can’t sing” reason enough to carry a lute?


2022-04-15: The cinematic Weapon Master works with a lot of weapons. Sadly, those with a “U” Parry get cheated out of a key benefit: the reduced penalty for multiple parries.

Idea: Let Weapon Master eliminate the “U” (but not reduce the multiple parry penalty).

Example: Weapon Master that covers axes and maces changes an axe’s Parry from 0U to 0, a lifesaver in combat. However, multiple parries with the axe take the usual -4 penalty, not halved for Weapon Master.

Effect: Weapon Master speeds up defenses even for axes, if not to the same level of agility as swords.


2022-04-16: DF/DFRPG: A general first aid kit ($50, 2 lb) is considered good-quality equipment (+1 to First Aid rolls), not basic-quality.

Here’s a fine-quality first aid kit: $200, 8 lb; +2 instead of +1 to First Aid rolls. Extra tweezers and all that.

A GURPS terminology note:

  • For weapons, a step above basic quality is called “fine”; a step above that is called “very fine”.
  • For other equipment, a step above basic quality is called “good”; a step above that is called “fine”.

I think I’d have preferred standardized terms here…

Or “fine” and “very fine” for weapons, and “good” and “very good” for other stuff.

No big deal, but the current terms can be a little confusing.


2022-04-17: DF/DFRPG: The basic healer’s kit is presumably a basic quality item.

Allow good-quality ($1000, 50 lb) and fine-quality ($4000, 200 lb) kits – though those become more room-based setups than portable kits!

Same with the basic surgery kit ($300, 15 lb): Allow good-quality ($1500, 75 lb) and fine-quality ($6000, 300 lb) kits.

Pair a fine-quality healer’s kit and fine-quality surgery kit for a full medieval clinic ($10,000, 500 lbs, +2 to Esoteric Medicine or Surgery rolls).


2022-04-18: DF/DFRPG: A healer’s kit can substitute for a normal (i.e., good-quality) first aid kit, for a +1 bonus on many First Aid rolls.

Let a good-quality ($1000, 50 lb) or better healer’s kit function as a fine-quality first aid kit for a +2 bonus.


  • A basic healer’s kit ($200, 10 lb) gives +0 bonus to Esoteric Medicine, +1 to First Aid (per rules).
  • A good-quality healer’s kit ($1000, 50 lb) would give +1 to EM, +2 to First Aid.
  • A fine-quality healer’s kit ($4000, 200 lb) would give +2 to EM and +2 to First Aid.

Sounds good to me, given the hefty weight of those boosted-quality healer’s kits.

Yet another load to strap onto the party barbarian or other pack animal…


2022-04-19: DFRPG makes a healer’s kit a requirement for some uses of Esoteric Medicine.

For flexibility, allow kit-less rolls with improvised equipment – say, -10 for none, -6 for bandages, -5 for a first aid kit, -3 for the healer’s kit of a different EM.

Also let an Esoteric Medicine healer’s kit replace a surgery kit, and vice-versa, at -5.

Should equipment quality bonuses affect “kit defaults”? Sure, I say. For example, a Surgery task could use a fine-quality (+2 bonus) Esoteric Medicine healer’s kit at -3, not -5.

How about Esoteric Medicine using a fine-quality first aid kit?

The -5 penalty I suggest for a normal (i.e., good-quality) first aid kit already includes the kit’s inherent +1 bonus. So a fine-quality first aid kit’s +2 bonus would improve the Esoteric Medicine penalty to -4.


2022-04-20: DF/DFRPG: Assume that Veterinary skill calls for its own special healer’s kit, with the same cost and weight as an Esoteric Medicine healer’s kit, for any task that would require a kit (GM call, but use Esoteric Medicine as reference).

Per earlier entries, also allow good-quality ($1000, 50 lb) and fine-quality ($4000, 200 lb) Veterinary healer kits.

Also allow a Veterinary kit to replace an Esoteric Medicine healer’s kit, or vice-versa, at -3 to skill.

(But for simplicity, assume a surgery kit is universal.)


2022-04-21: DF/DFRPG: It may not be obvious at a glance, but the three versions of Esoteric Medicine aren’t equal. From best to worst:

Esoteric Medicine (Chi) > Esoteric Medicine (Druidic) > Esoteric Medicine (Clerical)


  • EM (Chi): Bonus from Chi Talent, and always works (even if the bonus burns out from ying/yang imbalance)
  • EM (Druidic): No bonus from mystical power, but always works (even without Nature’s Strength)
  • EM (Clerical): No bonus from mystical power, and stops working without Sanctity

At the same time, druids can brew cheap cures, and clerics of course have awesome healing magic; it’s all an interesting balance.

Same stuff noted online here: link


2022-04-22: This may be in rules somewhere already:

If injury forces an HT roll to resist infection:

  • Let First Aid or Physician act as a complementary roll (thanks to proper disinfection).

To save rolling, this could be the same roll used for bandaging.


If an unhealed wound (including the Wounded disadvantage) is exposed to a contagion source, forcing or penalizing an HT roll vs disease:

  • If the wound was bandaged, roll vs the bandager’s First Aid or Physician. Success means tight wraps that prevent the disease roll or penalty.

In high-tech, these may not matter if antibiotics nuke disease/infection anyway.

In fantasy, these won’t matter if infection happens instantly, before first aid!

It seems fair to wait until after the battle to check for Monster Bite-itus, to give med skills a chance to help first.

All a bit of extra detail for a group that enjoys adventures in medical treatment. (Hey, some players actually do…)

Thank you for your patience during Health Week, seven days of entries on tools and rules for patching up PCs.


2022-04-23: You don’t need a hex map for tactical combat; just use a ruler, like this bespoke model: link

You’ll still have to GM-call and eyeball some things, like facing. It’s sort of a middle ground between basic and tactical combat.

Tip: Flat counters make it easier to maneuver a ruler and measure combatants’ center-to-center distances. (With miniatures, use a short (4″?) ruler for packed melee spaces.)

1″ counters or bases make it easy to eyeball a Step or other inch-based movement without rulering.

If you want to exploit hex-less tricks to the max, keep fractional Move scores (Move 4.8? Sure, just measure it) or even experiment with finely detailed Step distances and weapon reach.

But stay open to reasonable eyeballing. Obsessive measuring isn’t fun.


2022-04-24: DFRPG: The Hazardous Materials skill is cool, but it doesn’t see much action in the books or published adventures.

Be generous in letting the skill replace Alchemy for any roll to identify, collect, store, transport, or otherwise deal with dangerous materials/items.

Removal of weird magical monster bits should be a showcase for HM skill.

Rules already specify HM for extracting poisons. When removing magical organs with Surgery, add a roll vs HM to do so safely. Maybe another roll to preserve the organs’ potency on the trip back to town.

Demonstrated uses of the skill, as inspirations:

  • In the Harry Potter series, the proper handling of mandrake roots seems to fall under HM.
  • In real life: Okay, we don’t have magic stuff, but trained removal of toxic organs from puffer fish is close in spirit.

Any others?


2022-04-25: By the rules, Striking ST helps meet the ST requirement for most weapons.

But IMO, Lifting ST is the more appropriate stat here, for many reasons – not the least of which is letting a DF/DFRPG dwarf (ST 10) actually use an axe (ST 12)!

No new complications or fancy stuff here; just “Use Lifting ST, not Striking ST, to help meet weapon ST.” That’s all. There are actually a lot of related benefits, all detailed here: link

(The dwarves are all behind this idea. You might like it too.)


2022-04-26: RPGs typically give monsters high DX (or the equivalent), which is often fine.

But for big “roaring and brawling” beasts in GURPS, I like DX 10, 8, or lower, compensated by AoA and/or Telegraphic Attack.

This just feels right in combat, IMO. Part of that feel is effect on defenses.

  • If the brute compensates for low DX with AOA (Determined), it loses Active Defenses. That means fewer rolls by the GM, more solid hits by PCs.
  • If the brute compensates for low DX with Telegraphic Attack, PCs get to look cool deflecting and dodging more of its attacks.

    It’s all good.

Naturally, monsters with DX lowered a few levels are weaker monsters, so treat accordingly in terms of monster numbers, experience rewards, etc. (And, yes, toss in occasional high-speed, high-DX brutes as well, as unpleasant surprises.)

Basic stuff, but maybe useful for new GMs.


2022-04-27: New Talent:

Assassin’s Gift [5/lvl]

Take +1/lvl to Blowpipe, Fast-Draw (Knife), Garrote, Poisons, and Thrown Weapon (Knife).

Reaction Bonus: None.

Alternative Benefit: +1/level TH with Knife or other reach C attack if a true backstab.

This is for those good at fighting – just not straight-up, fair fighting.

The Alternative Benefit boosts melee TH with backstabs, in classic OSR style. Feel free to restrict this Talent to fantasy thief-types.

More talents at link


2022-04-28: New Talent:

Born Brawler [5/lvl]

Take +1/lvl to Boxing, Brawling, Forced Entry, Knife, and Wrestling.

Reaction Bonus: Brawlers, etc.

Alternative Benefit: +1/lvl to execute/spot dirty tricks in combat; and to plain DX (not DX-based skill) rolls in close combat.

This is for naturals at simple skills for melee combat and smashing things.

For a more aggressive Talent, replace the Alternative Benefit with “+1/lvl to TH with All-Out Attack in close combat”.

More detail at link


2022-04-29: A super-simple random ST score for a creature:

  1. Roll 3d + SM
  2. Multiply by height/length in yards (from Size Speed/Range Table)
  3. Divide by 2

Done. Figure BL, damage, etc. normally from there.

Here, size mainly affects ST through the multiplication in 2 – but I’ve also made SM a direct mod in 1. That’s to generate the bulky, muscular builds of big critters and the spindlier builds of small ones. Feel free to drop this mod if you don’t want the effect.

How to adjust stats (especially ST) for a creature’s size is pretty fundamental stuff, but I don’t think it’s actually spelled out in Basic Set. See supplements like Fantasy and Bio-Tech to flesh out the picture. (Or see fan-made supplements like this: link)


2022-04-30: A super-simple random DX score for a creature:

  • Roll 3d + 2 – SM.

SM is included to give big or small creatures a lumbering or agile feel, respectively. The +2 is there because games conventionally give animals and monsters high DX.

Drop either of those mods if you like. Or drop both and just roll 3d!

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Header image: Posting tweets the old way.

Source: “Georg Liebe – Der Soldat” 1899
Woodcut from Prüss, Strassburg (1488) Montevilla


  • Maximilian D Wilson

    I like your rename of Honesty => Law Abiding.

    I haven’t ever thought about renames before, but… I don’t love “Charitable” but I can live with it. The one that really bothers me is Gregarious. It should be called Clingy instead. Chummy could become Mildly Clingy or perhaps Needy.

    RE: multiple parries and U weapons, Weapon Masters don’t get completely cheated–they can still get multiple parries on rounds when they don’t attack with that weapon (e.g. kick or shield bash instead), or when using a Defensive Grip. Or in DFRPG, when using a dwarven-built weapon, which removes the U.

    I think removing the U is not worth losing the halved parry penalty–make sure Weapon Masters who are doing these things get the full parry benefit!

    • tbone

      I may or may not have thought up “Honesty => Law-Abiding” on my own (I don’t remember), but I’m pretty sure others have done so as well, probably before me.

      How to Be a GURPS GM: Managing Expectations doesn’t seem to address Charitable, Gregarious, and Chummy. For the latter two, your suggestions are well-noted. (I don’t think the original names are terrible, but they don’t capture the negative aspects like your suggestions do.)

      Re Weapon Masters being cheated out of a key benefit of the advantage (faster multiple parries) when using a parry U weapon:

      You’re correct that the fighter who keeps the weapon ready to parry by not attacking with it, and the fighter with a DF/DFRPG dwarven-modded weapon, should (and presumably do) benefit fully from WM’s faster multiple parries. But the former has to give up attacking with the weapon to claim that enhanced parry (or any parry). And the latter isn’t using a parry U weapon at all, so it’s moot. (I’m claiming that users of parry U weapons, not users of what are typically parry U skills, are the ones who get cheated out of a key WM benefit.)

      So my thinking is:

      1. – A normal user with a parry U weapon that hasn’t been used to attack: Allow a normal parry, and then additional parries at the normal (-4) cumulative penalty. (I believe that’s according to RAW.)
      2. – A normal user with a parry U weapon that has been used to attack: No parry (per RAW).
      3. – A WM user with a parry U weapon that hasn’t been used to attack: As you note, allow a normal parry, and then additional parries at WM’s improved (-2) cumulative penalty. (I believe this is how things work per RAW.)
      4. – A WM user with a parry U weapon that has been used to attack: Allow a normal parry, and then additional parries at the normal (-4) cumulative penalty (no halving for WM). (This is my suggestion up above, not RAW.)

      In all cases, users of dwarven-modded weapons aren’t using parry U weapons and so follow normal weapon rules (cumulative -4 penalty for parries after first, halved to -2 for WM).

      Thanks for the opportunity to write that more clearly. (I hope I got it right…)

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